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February 25, 2007 08:22 PM UTC

Romanoff: 'Amendment 41 Cease-fire'

  • by: Colorado Pols

Wearing a flak jacket and speaking from atop an up-armored Humvee,

Two Groups on Opposite Sides of Ethics Initiative Agree to Ask Supreme Court for Guidance

DENVER – On Sunday, February 25, 2007 at 1:30pm, House Speaker Andrew Romanoff (D-Denver) will announce plans for a “ceasefire” in the battle over Amendment 41.  Two groups on opposite sides of the ethics initiative will join the Speaker in seeking guidance from the Colorado Supreme Court.

Since its passage at the ballot last fall, Amendment 41 has sparked a firestorm of debate – and considerable confusion – among elected officials, public employees, and their families.  State lawmakers have offered different proposals to implement the constitutional amendment.  Speaker Romanoff will introduce a formal resolution on Monday asking the Supreme Court whether – and to what extent – the legislature has the authority to clarify Amendment 41. 

The leaders of Colorado Common Cause, which supported the ethics initiative, and the Colorado League of Women Voters, which opposed it, will endorse the Speaker’s strategy in Sunday’s press conference.

His resolution must still pass a sharply-divided Assembly, of course, but it will be “clarifying” all by itself to see who opposes this move and why.

In other 41 news,

Governor Bill Ritter got bumped from the upcoming inaugural Lufthansa nonstop flight from DIA to Munich last week, since the free ticket cost more than $50. Responding, Ritter made (we think) his first public call for legislative clarification of Amendment 41, the Rocky Mountain News reports:

“There are a lot of situations like this, where I think the amendment painted with a far broader brush than the voters of the state intended it too,” Ritter said.

While he agrees with the amendment’s goal of stopping lobbyists from paying for access to state and local public officials, Ritter said there are problems with the measure that “have to be clarified legislatively.” (Pols emphasis)

We read that as a pretty significant statement in support for Rep. Rosemary Marshall’s “clarifying” HB-1304 over the alternative “strict implementation” measure introduced by leading 41 critic Sen. Peter Groff, SB-188.

A speedier opinion from the Colorado Supremes based on Romanoff’s resolution than the Scott Gessler/Jean Dubofsky-led injunction lawsuit could render–an opinion which would most likely be in agreement with previous rulings from the Supreme Court allowing “clarifying legislation” of the kind proposed for Amendment 41–could make the injunction effort largely moot. If that happens, we’re talking only about how 41 will be carried out, not whether it will be carried out–a significant victory for the much-maligned “Common Curse” and “Jared’s Law” Polis.

These developments suggest a shift in momentum over Amendment 41 towards the outcome that  Polis and supporters were looking for, though we still say he suffered lasting damage from the experience that could have been avoided. However, if the implementing process moves quickly to a face-saving resolution and Polis stays out of embarrassing situations for the next few months, he may not be as dead politically as conventional wisdom holds today.


26 thoughts on “Romanoff: ‘Amendment 41 Cease-fire’

  1. The next Amendment I’d like to see (and the ONLY one for a good long time) would be one that would make changing the state constitution a lot harder.  A constitution ought to provide the kind of stable general framework that only rarely needs amending.  If Amendments required a super majority of 60% or even 2 thirds, following a lengthy period of public hearings, we’d spend a lot less time and effort, not to mention great expense, cleaning up after unforeseen consequences. 

    Voters rarely read the fine print (which is usually written in such archaic snooze inducing language, reading it might not even help all that much) so it’s easy to offer amendments that sound good in sound-bites (no more gifts to pols) with the devil in the details.  It’s a lot harder to go back and correct constitutional screw ups than it is to re-do legislation that doesn’t pan out quite as planned so how about taking it easy on amendments in the first place?

    1. …they’re introducing a concurrent resolution that would make it easier to get statutory changes on the ballot (but harder for lawmakers to change them) and harder to amend the constitution. Read more about it on the Speaker’s blog: http://andrewromanof

      Concurrent resolutions require 2/3 legislative approval, so it’s definitely not a gimme. Keep your fingers crossed (or, if you’re more into action, contact your Rep and/or Senator) and we’ll see if they can’t untangle this mess.

      1. Raising the signature count only slows down the under-funded initiative groups. Well funded organizations such as Common Cause or Focus on the Family can still put their pseudo-constitutional-social-ideological crap into the state constitution where it has no business being.

        The best way to protect our constitution from this is to raise the number of votes needed to amend the constitution. 60% is a very good number. Would require more wide-spread concensus without being an unreachable goal. Of course the votes needed to change statute would remain at a simply majority.

        1. I think raising the number of votes is a good idea, but lets not forget that 41 passed with over 60% (62% if i remember correctly). But I disagree that changing a statute should only require a simple majority. Im not one for slippery slope arguments, although I can see this really getting out of hand. Hypothetically, we change 41 with a simple majority and our good intentions turn into a loophole. If it takes 60% to enact an amendment, and enough people are outraged by the restrictions of the amendment than certainly 60% would be willing to rescind or modify the amendment.

        2. I’m with you here.  Voters should absolutely retain the right to redress problems at the ballot.  But it shouldn’t be easy.  I’d even go higher than 60%, but that’s because I believe a higher threshold has an added benefit.  If the passage requirement is high, the proponents will give it more thought, keep it simple, and craft a direct message to gain support.  As it is now, there is no quality assurance and the Common Cause ilk can hide all their blemishes behind a catchy title.

  2. His flight is exactly what needs to stop. What is the difference between that flight (comes after he helped land an airline here), vs. Ms. Musgrave taking a free trip to Turkey after helping pass some important legislation to keep us in Iraq (see stories on Sibel Edmund’s)? There is none. Now, I know that 41 does not apply to MM, but it just happened to be one of the better examples.  I also know that Ritter is not being evil by taking the trip (at least, I assume it). In fact, it is a symbol of ridership. But the simple fact is that you can not tell when these freebies were used to influence a person in a position of trust. The idea of 41 is not just to clean up the problems, but also to clean up the illusion.

    BTW, I expect a few to compare this to Oscars, Nobel’s, or Scholarships. This is NOT even close to appearance or actions. Yet, there will be groups that will try to co-mingle these 2 concepts where 1 is a common reward for having succeeded and the other is a unique reward for having succeeded or possibly having been bought. The later is too difficult to separate out.

    1. I believe most voters realize there is a certain Public Relations aspect to elected office.  We expect these people to go to important funerals, to cut ribbons on important buildings, and to participate in celebrations of an airline that increases the importance and visibility of Colorado’s travel industry.  Furthermore, I’m pretty sure Lufthansa added their route BEFORE Ritter took office, so doubt this is some kind of payoff.  Couldn’t offering this ticket be their reward for Colorado, with Ritter as our elected stand-in, for executing a good business deal?  Believe it or not, the niceties of global business (meals, receptions, gifts, and meetings of people; sometimes in places other than Colorado) are still common expectations the world over.  If we stop observing niceties, we shouldn’t be surprised if others begin to view us unfavorably, Amendment 41 or no!

      Also, please stop using actions of Federal politicians to justify Amendment 41.  I realize you disclaim, but the proponents used this same deceitful comparisons through the campaign, and it is not fair.  Amendment 41 doesn’t apply to the feds.  Examples that justify the amendment should be limited to those it governs.

      1. On the first count, I think the big cry will be that how can we determine the difference between a bribe and the expectations of good business? This will be the big issue, and while I have a thought, I need some time to get properly flesh it out.

        On the second, I agree. It is a red herring that probably helped to pass the amendment. The combined hysteria of DeLay, Abramoff, and that infamous hole-in-one really fueled the corruption fire. The majority of the hysteria came from the fed, and it is reckless to frame an argument that will do nothing to them.

      2. How much is it worth to have honest politicians? How useful will Ritter’s flight be? If that flight is really that beneficial to the state, than we should pay. The fact is that a flight over there and back will not break the bank.

        What is short sighted is not putting a stop to this corruption. We have now passed an amendment to stop it at the state level. If we are lucky other states will do the same. Once it is done at a number of states, then hopefully, it can put pressure on the feds. BTW, I do agree that the feds are the real problem. But we still have issues at the state level. In fact, Jefferson and Arapahoe county quickly come to mind. I am sure that others can be used.

        1. any more than “campaign finance reform” stopped campaign spending – it actually increased it, and gave us the glories of 527s.  And after they passed McCain-Feingold, there was *more* money, and more secretive money, spent on the election process than ever before.  Term limits *increased* the influence of lobbyists, because they, rather than the legislators, are the instutional memory at the Capitol.

          Big money interests will find a way to influence elections and get around the rules. They have the money to hire the lawyers to figure out how to do just that. Amateur-hour hack jobs like Amendment 41 just makes it harder for the little guys.

          Amendment 41 punishes the people who are trying to do their job.  What it will and is already doing is to discourage everyday folks – you know, the ones who aren’t multimillionaires and don’t have a single agenda – from entering public service.

          So a decade from now, when the statehouse is full of independently wealthy types looking for new worlds to conquer and hard right or hard left ideologues looking to make a very loud point, you can thank Amendment 41.


          1. McCain-Feingold created a legal loopholes (and one that is sickening). Where are the loopholes in 41? The fact that so many politicians are trying to kill it (as opposed to simply modify it), suggests that there are none.

            BTW, based on your last paragraph, it sounds like you are suggesting that anybody in the middle who is not filthy rich, is on the take and all others are not. If that is so, then 41 is doing its job.

        2. First you mentioned that A. 41 was needed because we can’t tell which perks are bribes and which are not; thus we need to remove the “illusion” of corruption.  Now, you speak of “honest” politicans (and, thus, dishonest politicans), and the need to stop “this corruption.”  What drama happened today to make you suddenly believe everyone is a crook?  Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest!

          The obvious problem with A.41 is that we don’t know whether voters intended to ban Ritter’s flight while simultaneously allowing (need-based, no strings-attached) scholarships, Nobel prizes, etc.  The amendment’s language draws no distinction.  It’s a ham-handed approach to a problem the scope of which is unclear and unproven.

          1. Perhaps, you need to re-read what I wrote without biases. Since you did not read it, let me point it out slightly different.

            1. Politician A makes a choice that helps the state. They follow it up with some reward from the company that was also helped.
            2. Politician B makes a choice that does not appear to help the state. They follow it up with some reward from the company that was also helped.

            The difference is that you and I only see a part of what goes on. For all you know, A was paid off to make that choice and simply offered logic that this was required for the state. A lot of folks argued that Webb rewarded his friends and family lavishly on DIA contracts, which has lead to such nightmares as the train vs. ped. walkway,  or even the runways. Or how about Owen’s push for a single settlement from the tobacco companies? In doing so, he removed the possibility of them fighting it in the future. These days, the tobacco companies are having the payouts lowered. By quickly settling, Owens may have prevented a future lose.

            Now, look at the Ritter issue. Assume that he does not take the paid for trip. Does that hurt the airlines? Hell No. If Ritter really wants to help them, come down to the gate. Or better yet, pay for a ticket. Now from his POV, Nobody will be able to claim that he is corrupt based on this and similar actions.  IOW, this will help make Ritter or any politician a bit more re-electable.

            Whether it is real corruption or imagined, it is better for the politician AND the state that there be no chance of corruption.  Now, if they take a gift or money without it being a reward, then it is officially corruption.

            1. I love that quote, not sure who said it first. 

              “Without biases?”  Oh great, what “biases” do you imagine I have?  I do confess to having the ability to read and to wishing A.41 didn’t read so poorly.  I’ll give you those.

              I can’t even begin to respond to your various half-thoughts, non-sequiturs, and wild-eyed speculation.  (Ritter should “come down to the gate”?? Owens pushed for the tobacco settlement?  HUH?  If politicans take money as a “reward,” that is not corruption; but if the money is a not a reward, it is corruption???  reward for what?)

              You still seem to be confusing corruption and “imagined” corruption.  (or, do you always view reality and your imagination as the same?)  And you still have not responded to the fact that A.41 is a poorly written attempt to accomplish what you say you wish to accomplish…to the extent one can determine what you wish to accomplish.

              1. Here’s a wacky thought: most public servants *aren’t* corrupt, they’re genuinely trying to do the right thing, even the ones you disagree with (Tom DeLay excepted).  And most lobbyists aren’t either – is the word “ethical lobbyist” even in windy’s vocabulary?  Everybody has a lobbyist – the enviros, the correctional officers, the gun owners, the insurance industry, everyone.

                If windy thinks a $5 sandwich or a morning bagel makes a difference, he/she/it’s a fool.  We’re in the single-A leagues here, and Amendment 41 is a SCUD missile when we needed a flyswatter.

            2. In a previous life, I *was* in on those decisions. 

              Corruption is in the eye of the beholder, and in the nature of the person making the decisions.  Someone who is pro-choice and introduces legislation to provide reproductive healthcare to women who can’t afford it gets taken out to dinner by NARAL lobbyist – does that make them corrupt?  Colorado is now the second largest beer-producing state in the country, so if the breweries throw a reception to show off their products and the staff has a beer, does that make them corrupt?

              The problem with you and the other Amendment 41 proponents is that you make no distinction between pay-to-play in order to get in the door (ie, DeLay and friends) and the occasional trivial perk offerered to the people slogging away in the trenches.

              As an old boss put it, some people have a real knack for sucking all the joy out of life.

              1. . . . please remember that “politicians” and officeholders are only a small part of the impact of Amendment 41.  A41 puts restrictions on ALL public employees at the state and local level (home rule cities may find ways to exempt their employees).  You need to think through the impact of A41 from the standpoint of someone who is pursuing a career as a public employee. 

  3. However, big kudos to the people and to the bloggers.  I firmly believe that we have forced our elected officials to act and hopefully taken in to account the real lesson…
    That amendments should be well thought out  long before they ever make it to the ballot.

    1. for some 41 clarity was floated before the legislative session started and was actually proposed by Romanoff weeks ago.  Bloggers could get some credit as lobbyists if the thing passes both houses but not about its conception.

      Making it harder to pass a constitutional amendment is excellent.  Making it easier to pass a statutory change is the wrong direction.  I think citizen initiatives ought to meet  more stringent requirements before they get on the ballot.  I like the idea of referring all initiatives to the legislature for vetting.  After they get through that process and all the stink has been identified, then they get on the ballot. 

      Actually, I’d like to see citizen initiatives abolished but that won’t happen.  Too many romantic legends of how “the people rose up to do something good” are floating around for common sense to prevail.

      All that aside, let’s not make it an easier process. 

    2. …in which the legislature expresses an opinion as to what is permitted by A.41 and what’s not.  Instead, the legislature can be seen as throwing up its hands and begging the supreme court to bail it out of this tough decision.  Legislators are elected to office to make tough calls; if theyre afraid to do it, maybe they’re in the wrong job.

  4. Nor will he be in 08.  Because amendment 41 was passed by such a wide margin, saying Polis is dumb for pushing a dumb amendment is equal to calling the voters dumb for voting for it.  However true it may be, voters will NEVER internalize that and think they made a mistake.  Any attacks on Polis over this wont stick because people will say at least he tried and they voted for it too.  Sorry CO Pols but you were way off the mark on this one.

  5. When the clock runs out on what was Ref C in 2010, are you all going to be as eagar to alter the Constitution? 

    We all are going to need to keep the money flowing what with all the bloating of government that is now going on with the Dems in charge. 

    Say what you want liberal writers but if you tamper with the 50% margin and make it 60% some very serious cuts in state government are coming in four years.

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